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May 12, 1999|LARRY STEWART

What: "Rocky Marciano"

Where: Showtime, Saturday, 8 p.m.

This movie is not to be confused with "Rocky," the Academy Award-winning movie with Sylvester Stallone that Showtime will show Saturday at 6 p.m., preceding "Rocky Marciano." Or "Raging Bull" with Robert DeNiro, which will be shown on Showtime at 12:30 a.m., after a real-life boxing show from Miami.

But for what "Rocky Marciano" is--an original Showtime production--it's worth watching. Showtime isn't HBO when it comes to making movies, but this is better than most Showtime movies. Some of the boxing scenes are kind of corny, but Jon Favreau as Rocky and George C. Scott as Pierino, Rocky's father, are outstanding. Penelope Ann Miller as Marciano's wife, Barbara, and Judd Hirsch as Al Weill, Marciano's unscrupulous manager, also turn in fine performances.

The format is a little different and things get a little confusing at times and it generally works.

The movie opens with Marciano being presented a sportsman-of-the-century award from the Sons of Italy in New York City in late August 1969. From that point, there are flashbacks into the life of Rocco Marchegiano--the name was streamlined to Marciano--going back to his early childhood in the '30s in Brockton, Mass., and continuing through his fight with his idol, Joe Louis, on Oct. 26, 1951, at Madison Square Garden. A year later, Marciano won the heavyweight championship by knocking out Jersey Joe Walcott, and it was probably wise to focus on Marciano's early years. Otherwise, there would have been too much ground to cover.

The scenes showing Marciano in 1969 are limited to the few days before he was killed on Aug. 31, a day before his 46th birthday, in the crash of a small plane. Poetic license is taken, having Marciano cut short a trip to Las Vegas to land in Denver and visit Louis in a psychiatric institution just before the crash. Actually, Marciano was going from Chicago to Des Moines, Iowa, when the plane went down.

But this is not a documentary, simply an entertaining film that offers insights into boxing's only undefeated heavyweight champion.

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